Life Work | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Life Work 

Art Review: Catherine “Catchi” Childs, River Arts

artreview_175.jpg

Nonagenarian Catherine “Catchi” Childs isn’t an elderly folk artist à la Grandma Moses. She’s an accomplished figurative painter with a sophisticated aesthetic, complex palette and confident, expressive brushwork. River Arts in Morrisville is currently hosting a retrospective of 36 portraits, still lifes and a few landscapes by the artist. Formerly from Long Island, she now lives in Morrisville, but during her long career Catchi’s paintings have been exhibited from England to Japan, and points in between. 

These aren’t unassuming little paintings. “Valley of the Arni,” the largest piece in the show at 54 by 72 inches, is a sun-drenched mountain vista in golden yellows and bands of pale green. The composition is monumental. Diagonals folded into each other aim at a low focal point. The sfumato of aerial perspective renders the most distant chain of mountains pale, introducing light blue and pink planes to the faraway peaks.

Catchi is a past president of the New York City-based National Association of Women Artists. She studied with figurative artist Leon Kroll and briefly with abstractionist Hans Hofmann. But older art-historical references have also been important in her work. Reminiscent of Matisse, Catchi’s “Fish Bowl” beautifully presents two goldfish in a round bowl on a small table that is draped in a flowered cloth. Her hues are nearly as vibrant as that earlier artist’s; mauve and reds appear in the background and, in the foreground, yellow floral patterns appear within opulent passages of blue. 

“Aerialist” hints at Catchi’s extensive study of figure drawing in her early years. Her solid figures recall those of Cezanne. The aerialist is divided into planes of muscle, light and shadow. Catchi wastes no time on details (the left side of the figure’s face is undefined); her interest is focused on weight, form and gesture. The painting is rendered in earth tones, with figure and background composed of similar hues — except for a single patch of Prussian blue over the figure’s right shoulder, which deepens the space solely with color and value.

The 36-by-16-inch vertical “Fall Bouquet” has a classic compositional arrangement of acute angles tumbling down the picture plane. The narrative is a floral study, with splashes of bright color cascading over the dark background. The flowers are simplified to geometric forms. The painting’s composition is nearly identical to that of Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Both artists constructed images with a logical arrangement of positive and negative space, using strong angles at upper right and lower left. The paintings have a similar arrangement of small and large forms within the central subject, and deep, dark space beyond the foreground. Whether Catchi consciously adopted Duchamp’s composition hardly matters. The point is, she fully assimilated 20th-century modernism, and abstraction is the basis of many of her still lifes.

In her early thirties, during a Hofmann class, Catchi fainted and was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She was bedridden for a year. But Catchi continued to draw during her convalescence, and, according to her website, considered herself oddly lucky. “I thought of all the things I had to have, it was very good I had tuberculosis,” she writes. “I had read about artists, and one of the main things artists had was tuberculosis, so I figured I was made. I had the proper disease if I was going to have anything.” Even without the “proper” disease, Catchi surely would have developed into a substantive artist. But an unflappable attitude toward adversity certainly couldn’t have hurt.

Catherine “Catchi” Childs, River Arts, Morrisville. Through November 7.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

  • Ground Crew
  • Ground Crew

    Art Review: Wendy James, Lynn Rupe and Carolyn Hack, Burlington International Airport
    • Dec 14, 2011
  • Net Gain
  • Net Gain

    Art Review: Barbara Wagner, Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery
    • Dec 7, 2011
  • Branching Out
  • Branching Out

    Art Review: “Trees,” Bryan Memorial Gallery
    • Nov 23, 2011
  • More »

About The Author

Marc Awodey

Marc Awodey

Bio:
Painter, poet, writer, musician, guerilla publisher and numismatist Marc Awodey, 1960-2012, was the Seven Days arts critic for more than a decade before his death at age 51. We all miss him.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Art Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation